The Winter Sea weaves together the past and the present and Susanna Kearsley has done an exceptional job of bringing the two storylines together. Not only are her characters beautifully well written, but Scotland and the historic era of the Jacobites as well.
Novelist Carrie McClelland is working on her latest novel involving the 1708 plot to bring James Stuart back to the throne of Scotland when she stumbles upon the ruins of Castle Slains on the Scottish coast close to Aberdeen. She becomes enthralled with the ruins and soon she is settled in a cottage not far from the castle.
The novel alternates between past and present – Carrie in the present and the novel she is writing in the past. As Carrie delves into the history of Slains castle, her novel begins to flow out of her. The castle and its inhabitants are at the heart of the second storyline. These characters are embroiled in a plot to bring King James back to the throne of Scotland. And Sophia, a character Carrie only intended as secondary to her novel emerges as the primary voice. Susanna Kearsley explores the theme of genetic memory as ideas and events Carrie believes are products of her creativity turn out to be historically accurate.
In both storylines there is a love story, and while I loved both, I would have liked to see a little more of Carrie and Graham. While I think it is a little harsh to say Carrie took a back-seat to Sophia, I do believe Carrie’s own love story did. I felt throughout that Carrie and Graham were meant to be a modern version of Sophia and Moray of sorts, but I still would have liked to see their romance a little more developed.
I loved the characters and did not want each character’s story to end at the end of the chapter. Both Carrie and Sophia have a strong will and deep-seated strength. I’m a sucker for a Scottish male character and Moray and Graham fit the bill nicely. The novel was filled with an assortment of wonderful supporting characters as well- the Countess in the 1708 storyline, and Jimmy Keith in the present day.
I was also interested in the historical aspect of the novel. The Jacobites are a sad and curious part of Scotland’s history. I have read other historical fiction involving two more well-known risings culminating in the infamous Battle of Culloden in 1746, so I enjoyed reading about the lesser known plot of 1708. I imagined Carrie takes a lot of her research skills from Susanna Kearsley and her well-honed ability.
The novel builds up to an emotional climax. We know the plot of 1708 does not succeed, but what does that mean for Moray and for Sophia? I found myself alternating between dread and anxiousness as I raced to finish. The ending was emotional and heart wrenching and I loved every second of it. After I was finished, I mentally put Sophia/Moray and Carrie/Graham into my imaginary happily ever after where all great characters go once I’ve finished with them. They are doing wonderfully.